Of Quiet Birds in Circled Flight

Sick on my journey,

only my dreams will wander

these desolate moors

– Matsuo Bashō, 1694

As we prepared for this trip, both Hannah and I often had to calm each other down as our anxiety spiked and we worried about everything that might go wrong. While Hannah often had to play the role of motivator, I found myself constantly reassuring her that everyone we know and love will be just fine for the three months that we’re gone. This isn’t goodbye to our families – it’s just goodbye for now.

On Saturday (here in New Zealand), our day couldn’t have been better. We toured Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings movie set, and unpacked our bags at a beautiful small sheep farm in Matamata. The view from our patio was breathtaking.

As a light rain set in and we prepared for dinner, I received a phone call. In a tragic accident, I lost a cousin and a friend. Speaking to my family, I wanted to claw my way through the phone, slice my way through to the other end and hold them until I lost all strength.

Logan lived on smiles. In my mind, Logan’s best days consisted of making people laugh, helping them loosen up a bit – he was the guy who urged the world to uncoil its tensions and breathe a little. Months would pass us by. There were long stretches when I wouldn’t see him. But it didn’t matter: his bear-hugs were consistently warm, firm, and sincere. The definition of “grinning ear-to-ear” is likely a photo of Logan, both arms extended and coming in for the embrace.

When I learned that Logan had passed, I needed to be home. I craved it. I looked out at the gorgeous view in front of me and could see nothing: I was angry, confused, and defeated. I wondered how I could ever continue this journey in the shadow of such a loss.

Two things now embolden me in pushing forward with this project, both of which mean so much to both Hannah and myself. First, there’s our commitment to the clubfoot community and our family and friends. We have received so much support from the mothers, fathers, and patients all around the world, along with the people who know and care for us. So many people have poured their hopes and enthusiasm into this project. We must move forward for them.

Then there’s Logan. He’s guiding me ahead. After the painful loss of Emily Sutker, Logan’s first cousin (as well as my cousin), Logan penned a message to Emily’s sister, Sophie. She was kind enough to share it following Logan’s passing. “Down the road,” he writes, “we lose family members, loved ones and friends – but we can’t let that lose our state of mind because that’s not what they’d want! Everything will get better.”

Our state of mind has been shaken, but we trudge on. Logan and the smiles he continues to inspire will be with us on our journey. And he’ll be grinning with us the whole time.

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3 comments on “Of Quiet Birds in Circled Flight
  1. Ann Denny says:

    I was so sorry to get word of your cousin’s death. Betsy let me know. I know he would have wanted you and wants you to continue your and Hannah’s good work around the world. e all look forward to your return. Keep up the good work.

  2. Betsy says:

    I think it’s so wise that you decided to write about Logan. It’s healing for you and ALL your readers and especially your family since you physically couldn’t be with them. You are a smart and caring man.

  3. Gary Silverstein says:

    Zach,
    My deepest condolences to you and your family. When you are hurting, we are hurting with you. Your words about your cousin are very sad but a warmth and kindness emanate from them as well.
    Much love… Gary

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